They say that the hardest animal in the world to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. It's incredibly difficult for outsiders to catch, but not for the locals. This very rare animal has a love for certain melon seeds, so what the locals do is hollow out a tiny hole in a tree, just big enough for the monkey to stick its hand through, and then they throw the seeds in the hole.
The monkey comes along, sticks its hand into the hole, grabs the seeds, but then it can’t pull its hand back out. Even when its captors come up, it will still hold on to the seeds. All it needs to do is let go to slide its hand out, but it won’t. Those seeds are what send these monkeys into captivity.
A bit like these monkeys, we live in a culture that will not let a grudge go. People will hold on to something for years, even decades. When we do that, we find ourselves being brought into captivity.
I once sat in a funeral and watched somebody pull out a letter that was the reason they were offended at someone. It had been in their pocket for 40 years. This letter was so old that it had creases all over and was falling apart, and they were trying to show me what this one person had written to them 40 years ago. I wanted to say, "Seriously, you held on to this thing for that long? Let go of it, monkey hands. Just let it go.” But this is what we do.
The number one marriage counseling issue that I have dealt with for the last 35 years has not been finances or intimacy; it has been people not knowing how to resolve a conflict. That’s the number one thing. Bigger and bigger problems begin to grow off of not knowing how to resolve an issue. All of a sudden, people have a broken relationship on their hands, and they don't know how to reconcile it.
Being offended is a choice. You don't get a choice in what people are going to do to you, but you do have a choice in whether or not you're going to be offended. Forgiving others is part of God's curriculum. It is teaching us the true value of what God does when he forgives us.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26, ESV).
After pastoring an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years, Pastor Tim served at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years and pastored in Lafayette, Louisiana, for five years. He became Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in May of 2020.
“Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:10, NKJV). What an incredible statement! Paul is saying, “The Spirit delivered me out of a hopeless situation. He’s delivering me even now. He will continue to deliver me in all my afflictions.”
Receiving the Holy Spirit isn’t evidenced by some emotional manifestation. I do believe there are manifestations of the Spirit, but what I’m talking about here is receiving the Spirit through ever-increasing knowledge. Receiving him means having an ever-increasing light about his delivering power, his burden bearing, his provision.
I repeat Peter’s words: “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). According to Peter, the divine power of the Spirit doesn’t come as a manifestation. He comes first “through the knowledge of him who called us.”
Moreover, the Holy Spirit is not fully received until he is fully in charge. We have to cast ourselves totally into his care.
Let me give a final example to illustrate this. In Genesis 19, we find Lot and his family in a terrible crisis. Judgment was about to fall on their city, Sodom, and so God had sent his angels to deliver them. Lot opened his door to these messengers of the Lord, and they entered the house. They had the power of heaven to deliver that whole family, but in the end, the angels had to force their will on Lot and his family, dragging them out of Sodom. The angels’ message was clear: “If you want God to be in control, then you have to give up the reins. If you look to him for deliverance, you’ve got to let go of your plans and be willing to go his way.”
God’s plan all along was to deliver Lot’s family in the process of fleeing. He was going to feed and clothe and take care of them. But, as we all know, Lot’s wife looked back and died. In short, the Holy Spirit doesn’t use his power to deliver doubters. Unbelief aborts his work. We have to be willing to let him make changes in our lives, if that is God’s chosen way of delivering us.
God not only loves his people but delights in each one of us. He takes great pleasure in us.
I see this kind of parental pleasure in my wife, Gwen, whenever one of our grandchildren calls. Gwen lights up like a Christmas tree when she has one of our dear, little ones on the line. Nothing can get her off the phone. Even if I told her the President was at our door, she’d shoo me away and keep talking.
How could I ever accuse my heavenly Father of delighting in me less than I do in my own offspring? At times, my children have failed me, doing things contrary to what I taught them, but never once have I stopped loving them or delighting in them. So, if I possess that kind of enduring love as an imperfect father, how much more does our heavenly Father care for us, his children?
Joshua and Caleb stood up in the midst of Israel and cried, “If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us” (Numbers 14:8, NKJV). What a simple yet powerful declaration. They were saying, “Our Lord loves and delights in us, and he’s going to vanquish every giant because he delights to do it for us. Therefore, we mustn’t look at our obstacles. We have to keep our eyes on our Lord’s great love for us.”
All through the scriptures we read that God delights in us. “The blameless in their ways are His delight” (Proverbs 11:20). “The prayer of the upright is his delight” (15:8). “He delivered me from my strong enemy…for they were too strong for me…. But the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:17-19).
It is absolutely imperative that we believe that God loves us and delights in us. Then we’ll be able to accept that every circumstance in our lives will eventually prove to be our Father’s loving will for us. We’ll emerge from our wilderness, leaning on the loving arm of Jesus. He will bring joy out of our mourning.
I want to talk to you about “soul sickness.” This is caused by a flood of troubles coming upon you. King David cried, “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, Where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying” (Psalm 69:1-3, NKJV).
Troubles came at David so powerfully that he thought he would collapse. He prayed, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body!” (Psalm 31:9).
Some people right now are facing a flood of fears. Multitudes of elderly people are living on starvation means. Parents grieve over children who are drawn away by drug and alcohol-addicted friends. Couples have mounting mortgage payments, troubled marriages, bills piling up. The root cause of soul sickness is when your troubles go on and on, when events get worse, when your soul cries out to God for help, and there seems to be no answer. Soul sickness is to know the Lord, to love him, to pray and even to shed tears, and still he does not seem to be there.
David said his troubles became so overwhelming and his soul was so cast down that “I cannot even speak.” In other words, “I have cried so much there are no tears left. All I can see now is despair in the days ahead.” If you relate to this at all, I have hopeful news for you. Here are simple biblical truths that can heal your soul sickness:
Shake off fear because it’s a torment. Instead, rest in his promises. All things do work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose. Look up. God will never fail you!
Only one thing conquers and dispels darkness, and that is light. Isaiah declared, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2, NKJV). Likewise, John stated, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5).
Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and when he revealed himself in his resurrected body to his disciples, he promised to clothe them with power. This promise is for us today as well. Our God has sent us his Holy Ghost, whose power is greater than all the powers of hell: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
In Revelation, we read of hell spewing forth locusts and scorpions that have great power. We read of a dragon, beasts, horned creatures, as well as the coming Antichrist. Yet, we don’t know the meaning of all these creatures. That is, we don’t have to. We don’t need to worry about the Antichrist or the mark of the beast.
There is living in us the Spirit of Almighty God and his Christ. Paul declares that the power of the Holy Spirit is working in us. In other words, the Holy Ghost is alive in us at this very moment.
So, how does the Spirit work in us in the midst of hard times? His power is released only as we receive him as our burden bearer. The Holy Spirit was given to us for this very reason, to bear our cares and worries. How can we say we’ve received him if we haven’t turned over our burdens to him?
The Holy Spirit isn’t shut up in glory but is here, abiding in us. He’s waiting to take control of every situation in our lives, including our afflictions. So if we continue in fear — despairing, questioning, going deeper into anxiety — then we haven’t received him as our comforter, helper, guide, rescuer and strength.
The witness to the world is the Christian who has cast his every burden on the Holy Spirit. This believer sees overwhelming problems all around, and yet he has the joy of the Lord. He trusts God’s Spirit for his comfort, and for guidance out of his affliction. He has a powerful testimony to a lost world because he embodies joy despite being surrounded by darkness. His life tells the world, “This person has seen the light.”